July 29, 2018 § Leave a comment
When Arnold Neuhaus was a small lad growing up in Amsterdam, he entered a contest sponsored by KLM, and won. The prize was a flight over Amsterdam, but he wasn’t able to collect because of his sister’s illness. Eighty three years later, with the help of his seven-year-old great-grandson, KLM delivered with a surprise for “Grandpa Nol’s” ninetieth birthday.
How’s that for a caring company?
Each year, AirHelp rates airlines by looking at their on-time performance, quality of service, and claim processing. I’m going to call that a “care” index (work with me here). Back in 2016, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines came in second. Since then, though, they’ve seen a bit of a dip in their ranking. Last year they came in at 11, and this year, it’s 11 again.
But KLM cares about caring, and maybe they’ll soon regain their number-2 spot. (Good look trying to be number 1. Qatar Airways seems to have a lock on that.) Take, for instance, their special-assistance program. It’s called KLM CARES.
And this summer, they’re introducing Care-E, a luggage-carrying robot that can scan your boarding pass and take you where you need to be, even if the gate changes. KLM tells CNN Travel that Care-E is currently in testing, with plans to debut it in New York’s JFK airport and San Francisco International later this year.
Care-E looks like another step toward airport robot domination, and it’s an upgrade of KLM’s Spencer, who, alas, couldn’t carry your bags.
Last year, the airline introduced the KLM Care Tag, a smart luggage tag that uses GPS and a speaker to provide helpful “tips and tricks” as you travel around Amsterdam. It’s another technology that’s in beta mode, as it was available only during September of 2017.
The Care Tag. Yeah, it’s kind of like having a stewardess riding on the back of your bike or on top of your roller bag. Of course, that’s not going to happen (though the images are kind of seared into my brain). But don’t be surprised if a member of the KLM cabin crew sneaks up behind you on the street to zip up your backpack or adjust your child’s shoulder strap. “It’s not the blue uniform that make us stand out,” they say, “It’s because we care.”
And if you still don’t believe me about KLM’s karing kulture, here’s a video in honor of Mother’s Day, for those who live far away from Mom. It’s actually my favorite of this whole bunch.
By the way (#1), do you know what KLM actually stands for? It’s Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, which translates to Royal Aviation Company.
By the way (#2), in case you’ve never heard of AirHelp before . . . besides rating airlines (and airports), they want to help you get compensation for any flight delays, cancellations, or overbookings that have affected you in the last three years. Just let them know the details, then “sit back and relax while [they] jump into action.”
(Lilit Marcus, “KLM’s New Airport Robot Care-E Will Guide You to the Gate,” CCN Travel, July 11, 2018;
[photo from KLM, used with permission]
September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
The Interwebs have been in an uproar the last few days over an article in Air China’s inflight magazine Wings of China. As reported by journalist Haze Fan for CNBC, the latest issue of the magazine touts London as a top destination but includes the following “safety” advice in a section called “Tips from Air China”:
London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.
Fan notes that the capital city is currently being led by a mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born in London to Pakistani parents.
After Fan’s reporting, Air China North America issued the following apology via Twitter:
We at Air China Limited do not condone discrimination in any shape or form. We regret and apologize for the offensive language. . . .
But Air China was not done reversing its engines. The company also pulled the magazine from their planes and even deleted the above Tweet. Wings of China is now offline, as well.
So . . . I can’t send you to the Wings of China to read the article yourself, but I will remind you that if you’d like to see some other airline mags from around the world, go to my list of over 100 links at “Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.” Maybe you’ll be the one to scoop the next big piece of travel news.
(Haze Fan, “Air China Magazine Warns London Visitors to Avoid Ethnic Minority Areas,” CNBC, Sept. 7, 2016; Haze Fan, “Air China’s Magazine Says Media, Readers Misinterpreted London Travel Advice,” CNBC, Sept. 8, 2016)
[photo: “B-5178 | Air China | Boeing 737-86N | Grey Peony Livery | PEK,” by Byeangel, used under a Creative Commons license]
November 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
Here’s another way to get rid of those pesky frequent-flyer miles. Actually, it’s not the miles that are pesky, it’s those notices that your miles are going to expire due to inactivity that get irritating.
Last year, I wrote about trading a few hundred miles for magazine subscriptions. But maybe you don’t need another Golf Digest laying around your house. Maybe you want to live out your belief that it’s better to give than to receive.
Most airlines allow you to give your miles to selected charities, and it’s even easier than buying magazines. In fact, it probably takes more clicks to find the donation site than to make the donation.
I’ve put together a list of airline donation sites to help the cause. I give credit to the folks at MileDonation.com for giving me a head start on finding some of the links. More about MileDonation below.
- Air Canada
- Air France
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Frontier Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- US Airways
- Virgin Australia
Some of the other useful links at MileDonation.com are instructions on how a charity can solicit mile donations for itself, a form for joining their list of people seeking donated miles, and the list of published requests that others can give to.
You can also contact your favorite non-profit directly to see if they can accept miles into a matching frequent-flyer account (a fee will apply).
March 22, 2013 § 4 Comments
Chances are if you have a frequent-flyer account, you’ve probably seen that message, or something like it, in your email inbox.
Few things last forever, including airline miles, but keeping your miles available may not be as difficult as you think. There are a lot of ways to keep your account active, and though I’m not an expert on all the tricks of the trade, here are some things I’ve learned about one option: MagsforMiles:
- MagsforMiles (or Magazines for Miles) offers one of the cheapest ways to create account activity, at least for these airlines: Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit, United, and US Airways. For as few as 500 miles, you can get a year’s subscription to a wide variety of magazines.
- While some think that you need to clean out all your miles before they expire, you simply have to show some kind of activity—just spend or add as few miles as possible. That means one subscription with MagsforMiles will do.
- According to MagsforMiles FAQ page, you should wait 6-12 weeks for the first issue of your subscription to be delivered. Save the reply email you get showing that your order is being processed so you’ll know the order date and magazine name in case you need to follow up later.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. The required amount of miles will be taken out of your account within 2-4 weeks, and it could possibly take up to 6 weeks. This is important to remember, as you’ll not be able to redeem your miles on the last day of the deadline. I found this out when I got a postcard in the mail saying that MagsforMiles couldn’t fulfill my order because there were insufficient miles in my account. That was because after the deadline passed, the airline zeroed my account before MagsforMiles could take out the miles they needed.
- MagsforMiles has a customer service page, but when I called their number, all I got was an automated help line. This didn’t help me a lot, since the magazine subscription I was checking on wasn’t in the system, since it hadn’t been fulfilled.
- If, like me, you do your best and your miles get cancelled anyway, all is not lost. Call the airline and explain your situation. In my case, they called MagsforMiles (I assume they talked to a real person) and then gave me back all my miles as a one-time courtesy. I’m not sure how far you could go with that, but even if you miss the deadline with no really good excuse, it would be worth the call to see if the same policy would apply.
After all’s said and done, with MagsforMiles you’ll save your miles and you’ll get some pretty good magazines. Some, like Afar, Coastal Living, and Condé Nast Traveler can even make you feel as if you’re traveling from the comfort of your own easy chair. (OK. I know. It’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.)
May 3, 2012 § 14 Comments
Last week I wrote about the best airports in the world. But if you want to get to one of them, which airline should you take? Skytrax has that covered, too. Here’s a list of the top five airlines from 2011, followed by the winners in specific categories, all from World Airline Awards, “the most prestigious and coveted awards for the airline industry”:
- Qatar Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Asiana Airlines (South Korea)
- Cathay Pacific Airways (Hong Kong)
- Thai Airways International
(Singapore is the only one of these I’ve had the pleasure of flying. Maybe I took Cathay once, but I can’t remember. Flying Singapore was great for our family of six, but that was several years ago. Too bad they’re so expensive now.)
Best cabin staff:
- Asiana Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
(Our family flew Malaysia once, too. In our estimation, it’s pretty close to Singapore overall. It’s hard to beat Asian hospitality.)
And best economy class meals:
- Thai Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Asiana Airlines
(Any airline that served Dr. Pepper would get a vote from me.)